I met ‘Tony’ in East London. A female friend and I were twosing a Marlboro Gold outside The M by Montcalm hotel when suddenly his pitbull-lab mix, a beautiful puppy bearing fifty kilos of muscle and a particularly slobbery disposition, came bounding up to us on a taut, red leash, its markedly less energetic master, Tony, on the other end. Later, over a drink, Tony told me about his recent battle with ailing health, his successful career in app development, and his breezy admiration for women of darker complexions. Here was a man who knew hardship and discrimination, had made much of himself in spite of them, and owned a cute dog. What wasn’t there to like?
‘Race mattered so little that such conversation only detracted from the film’s ability to be a fun, silly superhero movie.’
On the second date, Tony made a mistake I have often seen in young, white liberals’ professions of alliance: stressing the unimportance of race in relation to intelligence, attractiveness, capability, and so on, to the point of utter eradication. That so many people do still feel that race does have bearing on those qualities was why, as I calmly tried to tell him, something like Black Panther‘s predominantly all-black cast and positive racial representation had become such huge points of discussion amongst black and non-black people alike. He acknowledged my argument but said that to him race mattered so little ‘in the grand scheme of things’ that these conversations served only to detract from the film’s ability to be a fun, silly superhero action movie. He said this with the proudest look on his face, unshakeably confident that his logic could be nothing but a shining example of advocacy for racial equality. The next day I stopped returning his calls.
However what I did end up returning, eventually, was to the paradox of how Tony (or indeed previous dates like Jack the actor, who’d believed that the key to racial harmony was to allow everyone to say the n-word, or Daniel the broker, who’d argued that an attractive black girl could better relate to a pretty white girl’s experiences of sexism than with an ‘ugly’ black girl’s of racism) could in one sentence agree on racism’s existence and in another completely disregard its influence. It was as if, because racism shouldn’t exist, just as he sees it to not exist in his own behaviour, race merits zero discussion or acknowledgement in any other context – unless you’re the one with an issue with race, of course.
‘Insensitive indifference and the white man’s burden appear to be two sides of the same narcissistic coin.’
At the time, I didn’t know what to make of it all. It looked a lot like the common ‘I don’t see colour’ spiel, with the same self-congratulatory flavour but less defensive and somehow more sincere. At a second glance, it has a little more in common with the modern white man’s burden. Overly emphatic consideration for a minority struggle as a public show of moral superiority and a firm belief that it’s the right thing to do? Check and check. I still can’t work out which is more distasteful – the white saviour mantle donned by passionate but misguided ‘allies’ whose voices and actions drown out those of whom they claim to support, or the blind and ironically insensitive indifference that Tony took such pride in. I wonder if these days the latter is in reaction to the former, born from a distaste for ‘SJW’ outrage and taking form as a deliberately antithetical apathy. Nevertheless they appear to be two sides of the same narcissistic coin and are certainly more indicative of a lack of intellectual growth rather than a melanin-deficiant racial makeup. I can think of more than a few times when a younger An earnestly cooed to a gay friend, “I just don’t get why who you want to fuck means people would treat you differently, you know?”
In the end, who knows. Maybe this article is all nonsense.
Maybe I just really needed to vent about that date.
Dear Steve Harvey
21 Savage to be Released from ICE Custody on Bond
Thanks to pressure applied by grassroots community organizers and lawyers connected to the #Free21Savage movement, the rapper has been released on bond.
Following news that ShaYaa Bin Abraham-Joseph was detained by ICE and subjected to 23 hour solitary confinement, leaders and legal experts partnered to petition for his freedom. With 450,000 signed petitions collected from sympathizers, the team of allies braved the cold to deliver them to ICE Field Director Sean Gallagher. Refusing to allow the petitions to be placed inside, organizers and involved protesters stood beyond the gates chanting for justice in the pouring rain. Their hard work bore fruit for 21 Savage, but their fight is just beginning. Determined to take things further and abolish ICE, community organizers want equal justice for those without celebrity status.
He Will Not Forget
Lawyers representing 21 Savage released a statement following the announcement that the rapper had won his freedom. Stating that the artist wanted to send a “special message to his fans and supporters”, Charles H. Kuck, Dina LaPolt, and Alex Spiro expressed the following:
“While he wasn’t present at the Grammy Awards, he was there in spirit and is grateful for the support from around the world and is more than ever, ready to be with his loved ones and continue making music that brings people together.
He will not forget this ordeal or any of the other fathers, sons, family members, and faceless people, he was locked up with or that remain unjustly incarcerated across the country. And he asks for your hearts and minds to be with them.”
This is our fight
It is incredibly important that while celebrating 21 Savage’s release we continue to credit the individuals who do this work consistently and remember the faceless who are still in detention. Georgia is among the top five states that detains the most immigrants. Sharing the unfortunate statistic with Texas, California, Arizona, and Louisiana, Georgia holds 3,717 immigrant detainees.
While the U.S. government does not maintain reliable immigrant detainee demographic information, data collected by Freedom For Immigrants shows most victims of this system are between the ages of 26 and 35. The average length of detention could be as little as six months or extend past four years. Locked in private prisons or city/county jails, nutrition issues, medical neglect, solitary confinement, and sexual abuse are among the list of documented abuses that immigrants endure. With the largest immigration detention system in the world, ICE contributes to this profit-driven system.
It is my personal hope that the eye-opening experience of 21 Savage has made the abolition of ICE a necessity for Black Americans who had previously sidelined the ordeal.
Catch Up! We Are Celebrating Women, Not Hating Them
It is past time for female artists to have the same, or better recognition from awards organizations. But their acclaim should not come at the expense of another person’s pride.
In a previous article, I discussed the lack of solidarity in rap regarding the continuing fight for women who have yet to receive their seat at the table. Despite being equally, or better talented than their male counterparts, women who rap are consistently pitted against one another in a show of misogyny. Feeding into this beast, BET recently tweeted and deleted a post that they believed was shady enough to be well received. Instead, it serves as a stark reminder that for women, there is still a long way to go.
Learn from this.
It’s hard to believe that just six days ago, that inspirational clip of LaLa Milan went viral. Speaking at a panel for Power Star Live, the emerging comedienne said the following:
“Unfortunately, in our culture we automatically put each other against each other when we’re in the same industry. It’s horrible. You see it every day on social media — ‘Who wore it best?’ ‘Oh, she’s funnier.’ All that stuff like that, but, it’s like…What people don’t realize is when we can all come together as a collective, you automatically have magic.”
Well said! So, how did we go from understanding there is room for everyone to eat, back to the pits of starvation? In a word, misogyny.
Last night, Cardi B celebrated a career milestone only eight other women of rap share. She won a Grammy. Taking home the award for Best Rap Album, Cardi has cemented her place among the genre’s elites by becoming the first woman to win the award solo. Instead of merely congratulating Cardi on her monumental achievement, BET saw it as an opportunity to belittle Nicki Minaj, who has yet to receive the honor. As a network that hosts their own awards show for Hip Hop, you would think BET could do better than perpetuate a negative standard that plagues 37% of rap lyrics and effects every female artist in the game.
When it comes to what is considered an acceptable standard for women performers in any genre of music, one must admit the bar is set unrealistically high. The level of imagination and creativity that is expected from a female artist is beyond what is expected of men. Indeed, after seeing Travis Scott’s Super Bowl “performance”, you could say male artists are allowed a certain celebration of mediocrity. Still, they are more heavily awarded and more easily accepted in the genre that now stands on a foundation of misogyny/misogynoir.
Let It Go.
The longstanding tradition of pitting female artists against one another for drama or ‘catfights’ is dated and should have been put to rest long ago. Women who have made it to that tier of status within the entertainment industry have made it clear that they are queens in their own right. Their successess and shortcomings need not be weighed against one another unless it is for comparison within their own career. And to attach Nicki Minaj to Cardi’s win as an insult was unnecessarily tacky.
In the words of LaLa Milan, “If you’re as hungry as me and you stop trying to starve those around you, we can all eat.” There is room for everyone.
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